I don’t know if the Ravens caught the Steelers with their pants down or were just so tired of Pittsburgh’s dominance over them in recent years that they decided that enough was enough, but this Ravens team completely destroyed the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens had never scored 35 points against Pittsburgh and the Steelers hadn’t lost a season opener since 2002, until today. Baltimore controlled the game from the first play, a 36 yard run by Ray Rice. Two plays later, the Ravens went up 7-0 in a game that was the biggest embarrassment of the week. Here are my quick thoughts on Baltimore’s 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- What offensive line problems? – I don’t want to undersell the difficultly of playing on the offensive line, but when I heard the experts say that the Ravens would lose this game due to a lack of chemistry up front on offense, I couldn’t help but laugh. How much chemistry does it take to push back defenders and ensure enough time for a quarterback? Michael Oher moved back to right tackle, where he belongs, Matt Birk looked was healthy enough to protect Joe Flacco and a slender Bryant McKinnie, now down to 372 pounds, ate up the space of several defensive lineman. Pardon the stupid joke. How much chemistry does it take to do that?
- I told you Joe Flacco improved – Excuse me for a second while I do the “I told you so” dance. Joe Flacco’s pocket presence, on field awareness and attitude is going to lead this Ravens team this year and I called it weeks ago. This is his offense, finally. The best throw Flacco made all day was called back on a questionable holding penalty by Bryant McKinnie. It was a 34 yard completion on a crossing pattern by tight end Ed Dickson that Flacco threaded through several defenders. Flacco hit six different receivers, three in the end zone. Unfortunately, new comer Lee Evans was catch-less on the day, but his presence allowed Anquan Boldin to get some separation and make four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown. Joe has taken steps forward this year, I saw it in the preseason and I look for it to continue in the weeks to come.
- Ray Rice + Vonta Leach = Monster Season – As our Ravens reporter Edgar Walker told me in his season preview video, Vonta Leach could be the Ravens biggest acquisition this offseason. The guy will explode defenders and you can tell that he enjoys creating lanes for Ray Rice. Here’s a trivia question for you: Who are the last two running backs to gain over a hundred yards on the Steelers? Answer: Ray Rice and Ray Rice. The Ravens running back confidently rolled up to the game in a white Maserati with the top down and then continued to roll by the Steelers with 107 yards on the ground and 42 in the air. With Vonta Leach’s help, Ray Rice will return to 2009 form and could even see more success as the Ravens have more confidence in him up the middle.
- Pagano’s defense > Mattison’s – Can you imagine how successful the Ravens defense would have been last season if they had a confident defensive coordinator? I think a lot of their failures were because Greg Mattison didn’t mask their weaknesses well and was afraid to take risks. Chuck Pagano isn’t. Haloti Ngata was a monster, recovering two fumbles and tipping a Ben Roethlisberger pass that led to an interception. Terrell Suggs owned Roethlisberger all day and finished with three sacks. Lardarius Webb was Baltimore’s tackle leader with nine, two assists and a half sack and Ed Reed intercepted two balls. Two! He’s on pace for 32, but an over rated player (likely from Pittsburgh) will probably win Defensive MVP over him. Pagano’s men set a franchise record with seven turnovers. Bravo gentleman.
- Thoughts on Pittsburgh – I loved seeing the boiling point of Mike Tomlin. Everything was fine and dandy during the first half, but when Big Ben was picked off to start the second half, Captain Cool lost it. I honestly don’t think Pittsburgh was ready for this game, maybe they got cocky and thought that they would always beat the Ravens or maybe they’re just old. I will say though that Troy Polamalu got scorched in the Super Bowl and was a total non-factor against the Ravens. I saw him jump on a couple piles at the end of plays and he hit Ray Rice in a scrum after the whistle was blown, but other than that they guy was completely useless. No one seems to be talking about that. I’ll have a full article on it tomorrow.